Guest Column

Mob justice: People have had enough of this cycle of desperation

2015-07-16 17:09

Alison Visser


“Gatvol!” The headline in today’s The Star said it all: People have had enough of crime, and beware the criminal who gets caught. 

Four men accused of theft were assaulted and stoned by Soweto residents. One man died and police had to come to the rescue of the others. Their crime? One of them was allegedly caught trying to steal a grass cutter, and was forced to turn over his pals. 

“That’s what we do to criminals,” the crowd was said to have shouted when the forensic pathology services arrived to fetch the body. 

It seems a bit macabre to celebrate the death of a young man, and to cheer at the fact that three others had to be taken to hospital. But there are very few people reading that article who would be thinking: “Ag shame.” 

Quite frankly, I don’t know what I would have done if I (and my pals of course – I’m not the biggest person in South Africa) had caught the men who held my two children and their terrified nanny at axe-point. 

I don’t know what I would have done if I (and my pals) had tracked down the men who robbed a colleague at gun point at her home last night. She had to be treated for shock at hospital, and is very traumatised. 

I always fancied myself as a pacifist. But the past few weeks our suburb has been under siege. Besides our robbery and a spate of smash-and-grabs and burglaries, an elderly man died after being attacked by men wielding a garden fork. Another pensioner was locked in her cupboard while her house was ransacked. 

If my thoroughly fed-up community ever gets hold of any of these criminals I don’t know that I would stop them. Hell, I might even join in. I’m gatvol. 

It’s a vicious, desperate cycle that South Africans have found themselves in. Will we ever be able to put an end to this cycle, which is one of poverty, drugs, desperation, terror and retaliation that makes our headlines and eats away at our humanity? Or are we doomed to this state of desperation? 

It sounds very post-apocalyptic and depressing but it’s the reality that most South Africans are living. And with no decent leadership to steer us out of this state, it’s very hard to be anything other than gatvol.

Read more on:    crime  |  mob justice

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